The sandwich board outside The Funny Farm Restaurant advertises a rum cake so good it needs a designated driver. A sign on the front counter next to a bucket of rubber chickens reads, “Warning: Snarky Staff.” A stuffed unicorn hangs upside down from the ceiling, surrounded by dangling multi-colored Slinkies.
“We’re a very homey place,” co-owner Monica Levi told San José Spotlight. “Our staff is a cast of misfits, like myself, being ourselves, cracking jokes and having fun. We want to make the place feel just like home, where everyone is family and everyone is welcome.”
The Funny Farm started as the kitchen for San Jose’s Sideline Sports Bar & Grill in 2017, followed by a brick-and-mortar on Stevens Creek Boulevard, finally perfecting the concept at its current location on San Felipe Road, which opened in March 2022.
On the surface, The Funny Farm’s whimsical decor and casual style might seem to be an entertaining alternative to Chuck E. Cheese for a kid’s birthday—but looks are deceiving.
From the designer burgers and gourmet mac and cheese to a unique interpretation of the burrito and classic dinner specials like braised short rib stroganoff, the menu from co-owner and chef Ron Levi—no relation to Monica—shows his personal spin on remarkably tasty dishes.
Ron’s career as a chef began at age 13 working at a Wendy’s in Canada—a job he hated. He bounced from restaurant to restaurant, finally ending up in San Jose where he did a stint at Psycho Donuts.
“That’s where I started playing around with the concept of crazy good food,” he told San José Spotlight. “We put grasshoppers on doughnuts, we made doughnut sushi and the Donnoli—a long doughnut stuffed with cannoli cream. People went wild for them.”
A throwback to his youth, his Funny Farm menu includes poutine, the classic Canadian comfort food, offered in five variations.
Starting with the poutine original—made with steak-cut french fries, white cheddar cheese curds and gravy—the dish can be ordered topped with boneless buffalo wings, pulled pork or a cheeseburger. The television show “Man vs. Food” featured the beef short rib version, which is topped with chopped braised short ribs, crispy onion strings and an optional sunny side up egg.
Quirky atmosphere aside, the food truly is the draw, and every dish has its own spin on a classic theme.
There is a pancake one foot wide and an inch and a half thick that includes a pitcher of syrup stuck squarely in the middle, and is available plain or with cookies and cream or blueberries. The classic Pigs in the Hole is made with eggs, tender carnitas, fire-roasted peppers and cheese sauce, all on brioche toast. And yes, there is a breakfast poutine with two sunny side up eggs, bacon and sausage.
There are a dozen versions of the Angus beef hamburgers, with toppings that include shaved Philly steak, mac and cheese, black truffle sauteed mushrooms and Black Forest ham. If you’re feeling decadent, the Silver Creek comes with truffle fries and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne.
“Our food could be the best on the planet,” Monica said, “but if the overall experience is not great, why would anyone come back again?”
That’s why prospective employees are auditioned, not interviewed—a process intended to reveal their personalities. To encourage fun interactions and good service, employees are given a bonus for every five-star review on Yelp that mentions them.
The UFO burger, another item featured on “Man Vs Food,” is made with two quarter-pound patties, bacon, pepper jack cheese, jalapeño poppers and a crispy cheese frico, all topped with Levi’s spicy Monkey Sauce, a sweet onion chipotle mayo. It’s the go-to burger for customer Rick Martinez.
“When I had it the first time, I thought it was the best burger I’ve had that I didn’t make at home,” Martinez told San José Spotlight. “But that was just me believing I’m a good cook—it really is the best burger I’ve ever had. Once you take a bite, you’re just happy.”
The Cheezy Noodz, a huge platter of macaroni sauced with six cheeses, is enough food to serve two. One standout is the Yardbird, topped with crispy fried chicken, bacon, ranch dressing and scallions.
The Funny Farm also features hot sandwiches and salads and has a fully stocked bar with wine and beer, along with an assortment of whiskies, bourbons and tequilas.
“Cooking is my passion,” Ron said. “Playing with foods and flavors for me is very soothing and calming. I love to create something that someone can taste and say, ‘Wow. I’ve never had that kind of thing before.’”
Contact Robert Eliason at [email protected].
Editor’s Note: The Biz Beat is a series highlighting local small businesses and restaurants in Silicon Valley. Know a business you’d like to see featured? Let us know at [email protected].